Quarterly Review: The Necromancers, The Asound & Intercourse, Bohr, Strobe, Astrosaur, Sun Q, Holy Mount, Sum of R, IIVII, Faces of the Bog

Posted in Reviews on September 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The season is changing here in the Northeastern part of the US. Leaves have just barely started to change, and the summertime haze that settles over the region for for the better parts of June, July and August has largely dissipated. It’s getting to be hoodie weather after the sun goes down. This past weekend was the equinox. All of this can only mean it’s time for another Quarterly Review — this one spanning a full Monday-to-Monday week’s worth of writeups. That’s right. 60 albums between now and a week from today. It’s going to be a genuine challenge to get through it all, but I’m (reasonably) confident we’ll get there and that when we’re on the other side, it will have been completely worth the lengthy trip to get there. Hell, you know the drill by now. Let’s not waste any time and get to it, shall we?

Quarterly Review #1-10:

The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl

the-necromancers-servants-of-the-salem-girl

A noteworthy debut from the Poitier, France-based four-piece The Necromancers, whose coming has been much heralded owing in no small part to a release through Ripple Music, the six-track/41-minute Servants of the Salem Girl lumbers through doom and cultish heavy rock with likewise ease, shifting itself fluidly between the two sides on extended early cuts like opener “Salem Girl Part I” and the nine-minute “Lucifer’s Kin,” which gets especially Sabbathian in its roll later on. The album’s midsection, with the shorter cuts “Black Marble House” (video premiere here) and “Necromancers,” continues the flow with a general uptick of pace and ties together with the opening salvo via the burly vocals of guitarist Tom, the solo work of Rob on lead guitar, and the adaptable groove from bassist Simon and drummer Ben, and as the penultimate “Grand Orbiter” engages moody spaciousness, it does so with a refusal to commit to one side or the other that makes it a highlight of the album as a whole. The Necromancers finish contrasting rhythmic tension and payoff nod on “Salem Girl Part II,” having long since thoroughly earned their hype through songwriting and immediately distinct sonic persona. There’s growth to do in melodicism, but for being “servants,” The Necromancers show an awful lot of command in structure and style.

The Necromancers on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

The Asound & Intercourse, Split 7″

the asound intercourse split

Noise is the order of things on the Tsuguri Records split 7” between New Haven, Connecticut’s good-luck-Googling aggressives Intercourse and North Carolinian sludge rockers The Asound. Each band offers a two-song showcase of their wares, with Intercourse blasting short jabs of post-hardcore/noise rock angularity on “Too Fucked to Yiff” and “Corricidin is a Helluva Drug” and The Asound bringing a more melodic heavy rock swing to “Slave to the Saints” while saving a more galloping charge for “Human for Human.” It’s a quick sampling, of course, and “Slave to the Saints” is the relative epic inclusion as the only one over three minutes long – it goes to 4:20, naturally – but boasts a surprisingly professional production from The Asound and an unhinged vibe from Intercourse that meets them head on in a way both competitive and complementary to the aggression of “Human for Human.” Fodder for the bands’ merch tables in its limited-to-300, one-time-only pressing, but there’s hardly anything wrong with that. All the more worth grabbing it if you can, while you can.

The Asound on Thee Facebooks

Intercourse on Thee Facebooks

Tsuguri Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Bohr, Bohr

bohr bohr

Officially called Self-Title, this two-song outing released by Tandang Records and BTNKcllctv serves as the first release from Malaysia’s Bohr, and with shouts and growls duking it out over massive plodding tones on opener “Voyager,” they seem to take position right away in the post-Conan verve of megadoom. Peppered-in lead work showcases some welcome nuance of personality, but it’s the second track “Suria” that trips into more surprising terrain, with a faster tempo and something of a letup in thickness, allowing for a more rocking feel, still met with shouted vocals but hinting at more of a melodic reach nonetheless. The shift might be awkward in the context of a full-length, but on a debut single/EP, it works just fine to demonstrate what may or may not be a nascent breadth in Bohr’s approach. They finish “Suria” with hints of more to come in a plotted guitar lead and are done in about 10 minutes, having piqued interest with two disparate tracks that leave one to wonder what other tricks might be up their collective sleeve.

Bohr on Thee Facebooks

Tandang Records on Bandcamp

BTNKcllctv on Bandcamp

 

Strobe, Bunker Sessions

strobe bunker sessions

It’s worth noting outright that Strobe’s Bunker Sessions was recorded in 1994. Not because it sounds dated, but just the opposite. The Sulatron Records release from the under-exposed UK psychedelic rockers finds them jamming out in live-in-studio fashion, and if you’d told me with no other context that the resultant six-track/40-minute long-player was put to tape two months ago, I’d absolutely have believed it. This would’ve been the era of their 1994 third album, The Circle Never Ends, and while some can hear some relation between that and Bunker Sessions in the shimmering lead and warm underscoring basslines of 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Sun Birth,” the drift in “Chameleon Earth,” synth-laden space rock meandering of “Opium Dreams” and cymbal-wash-into-distortion-wash of closer “Sun Death” are on a wavelength of their own. It’s something of a curio release – a “lost album” – but it’s also bound to turn some heads onto how ahead of their time Stobe were in the ‘90s, and maybe we’ll get lucky and Sulatron will use it to kick off a full series of convenient LP reissues.

Sulatron Records on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Astrosaur, Fade In / Space Out

astrosaur-fade-in-space-out

While their moniker brings to mind pure stoner idolatry, Oslo instrumentalists Astrosaur acquit themselves toward more progressive fare with Fade In // Space Out, their Bad Vibes Records debut album, finding open spaces in bookending extended opener “Necronauts” and the dramatic shift between droning experimentalism and weighted lumber of the closing title-track even as middle cuts “Space Mountain,” “Yugen” and “Fishing for Kraken” balance with fits of driving progressive metallurgy. Comprised of Eirik Kråkenes, Steinar Glas and Jonatan Eikum, Astrosaur do get fuzzy for a bit on “Yugen,” but by the time they’re there, they’ve already space-doom-jazzed their way through such a vast aesthetic swath that it becomes one more stylistic element in fair-enough play. Open in its structure and building to an affecting cacophony in its ending, Fade In // Space Out is defined in no small part by its stylistic ambition, but whether it’s in the head-spinning initial turns of “Fishing for Kraken” or the stretch of peaceful, wistful guitar after the seven-minute mark in “Necronauts,” that ambition is admirable multifaceted and wide-reaching.

Astrosaur on Thee Facebooks

Bad Vibes Records website

 

Sun Q, Charms

sun q charms

There’s an encouraging and decidedly pro-shop fullness of sound being proffered on Sun Q’s debut full-length, Charms, to match an immediate sense of songcraft and stylization that puts them somewhere between heavy psych and more driving fuzz rock. Vocalist Elena Tiron takes a forward position in opener “Petals and Thorns” over the briskly-captured tones from guitarist Ivan Shalimov and bassist Denis Baranov while drummer Pavel Poseluev pushes the proceedings along, and whether they’re bringing in Seva Timofeev’s Hammond for the subsequent bluesy vibing of “After This,” toying with pop playfulness on “Plankton,” giving Andrey Tanzu percussive room on “Dancing Souls” or going full-expanse on keyboard-laden centerpiece and aptly-titled longest cut “Space,” there’s purpose behind the variety on offer and Sun Q never seem to lose their sense of poise throughout. There are moments where the bite of the production hits a little deep – looking at you, “Plankton” – but especially as their debut, Charms lives up to the name it’s been given and establishes these Moscow natives as a presence with which to be reckoned as they move forward.

Sun Q on Thee Facebooks

Sun Q on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mount, The Drought

holy mount the drought

White Dwarf Records picked up what by my count is Holy Mount’s fourth full-length, The Drought, for a vinyl issue following the Toronto foursome’s self-release last year, and with the immersive, dense heavy psych nod of “Division,” it’s little wonder why. The seven-cut LP is the second to feature the lineup of Danijel Losic, Brandon McKenzie, Troy Legree and Clayton Churcher behind 2014’s VOL, and its moments of nuance like the synth at the outset of “Blackened Log” or the blend of tense riffing and post-The Heads shoegaze-style vocal chants on the markedly insistent highlight cut “Basalt” only further the reasoning. The penultimate “Blood Cove” returns some to of the ritual sense of “Division,” and The Drought’s titular finale pierces its own wash with a lead that makes its apex all the more resonant and dynamic. Not nearly as frenetic as its cover art would have you believe, the already-sold-out vinyl brims with a vibe of creative expansiveness, and Holy Mount feel right at home in its depths.

Holy Mount on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records webstore

 

Sum of R, Orga

sum of r orga

Over the course of its near-hour runtime, Orga, the Czar of Crickets-issued third full-length from Bern, Switzerland, ambient outfit Sum of R deep-dives into droning atmospheric wash while effectively producing headphone-worthy depths and avoiding the trap of redundant minimalism. Chimes in a song like “Desmonema Annasethe” and ringing bells in “We Have to Mark this Entrance” give a feeling of lushness instead that serves the release well overall, and these details, nuances, take the place of what otherwise might be human voices coursing through the bleak mire of Orga’s progression. One might look to closing duo “Let us Begin with What We Do Not Want to Be” and “One After the Other” for some sense of hopefulness, and whether or not it’s actually there, it’s possible to read it into the overarching drone of the former and the percussive movement of the latter, but by then Sum of R have well set the mood in an abiding darkness, and that remains the prevailing vibe. Not quite dramatic or brooding in a human/emotional sense, Orga casts its drear in soundscapes of distant nighttime horizon.

Sum of R website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

IIVII, Invasion

iivii invasion

Noted graphic artist and post-metal songwriter Josh Graham – formerly visuals for Neurosis, but also art for Soundgarden and many others, as well as being known for his work with A Storm of Light and the woefully, vastly underrated Battle of Mice – makes his second ambient solo release in the form of IIVII’s Invasion on Belgian imprint Consouling Sounds. A soundtrack-ready feel pervades the nine tracks/44 minutes almost instantly and holds sway with opener “We Came Here from a Dying World (I)” finding complement in the centerpiece “Tomorrow You’ll be One of Us (II)” and a thematic capstone in closer “Sanctuary,” only furthering the sense of a narrative unfolding throughout. There are elements drawn in “Unclouded by Conscience” from the atmospheric and score work of Trent Reznor and/or Junkie XL, but Graham doesn’t necessarily part with the post-metallic sense of brooding that has defined much of his work even as the pairing of “We Live” and “You Die” late in the record loops its way to and through its dramatic apex. Obviously not going to be for everyone, but it does make a solid argument for Graham as a composer whose breadth is still revealing itself even after a career filled with landmarks across multiple media.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

 

Faces of the Bog, Ego Death

faces-of-the-bog-ego-death

In some of their shifts between atmospheric patience and churning intensity – not to mention in the production of Sanford ParkerFaces of the Bog remind a bit of fellow Windy City residents Minsk on their DHU Records debut album, Ego Death, but prove ultimately more aggressive in the thrust of “Drifter in the Abyss” and the later stretch of “The Serpent and the Dagger,” on which the guitars of Mark Stephen Gizewski and Trey Wedgeworth (both also vocals) delve into Mastodonic leads near the finish to set up the transition into the 10:33 title-track, which begins with a wash of static noise before Paul Bradfield’s bass sets up the slow nod that holds sway and only grows bigger as it presses forward. That cut is one of two over the 10-minute mark, and the other, closer “Blue Lotus,” unfolds even more gradually and ventures into cleaner vocals presaged on “The Weaver” and elsewhere as it makes its way toward an album-payoff crescendo marked by drummer Danny Garcia’s thudding toms and a low end rumble that’s as much a presence unto itself as a harbinger of progression to come.

Faces of the Bog on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Sumac, Dunsmuir, Monkey3, Oak, Lightsabres, Helen Money, Dali’s Llama, Suns of Thyme, Fungal Abyss, Wicked Gypsy

Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

This is always a kind of nervewracking moment, sitting here in my chair as I do every couple months and introducing the next Quarterly Review. Between now and Friday, somehow, some way, I’ll post 50 reviews in batches of 10 per day. It will cover more ground than, frankly, I yet know, and by the time it’s done it’s going to feel (at least to me) like way more than a week has passed, but hell, at this point I’ve done this enough times to be reasonably confident I can get through it without suffering a major collapse either of heart or brain. I’ve taken steps beforehand to make it easier on myself and listened to a lot, a lot, a lot of music in preparation, so there’s nothing left to do but dive in and actually kick this this thing off. So let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Sumac, What One Becomes

sumac-what-one-becomes

With their second album, What One Becomes (on Thrill Jockey), post-metal trio Sumac move forward from what their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), established as their crushing and atmospheric modus. Starting with a wash of blown-out noise in “Image of Control,” the collective of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) eventually settle into a barrage of chug and inhuman lumber over the course of the five-track/58-minute progression, testing tolerance on the 17-minute march “Blackout” and tapping into a satisfying moment of melody in centerpiece “Clutch of Oblivion” that, by the time it arrives, feels a bit like a life raft. There are stretches that come across as part collections, but the whole seems to be geared toward overwhelming, consuming and devastating, and ultimately What One Becomes accomplishes all of those things and more besides, finishing closer “Will to Reach” with the sense they could easily keep going. I believe it.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records

 

Dunsmuir, Dunsmuir

dunsmuir-dunsmuir

Prior to making their full-length debut, Dunsmuir issued a series of 7” singles, so if you picked up any of that, the straightforward pulse running through the 10-track self-titled will probably be familiar. Likewise if you’d previously caught wind of The Company Band, the supergroup in which vocalist Neil Fallon (also Clutch), guitarist Dave Bone and bassist Brad Davis (also Fu Manchu) previously joined forces. Here they’re joined by drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, etc.), and the material is suitably metallic in its aftertaste, but while Fallon’s presence is irrepressible and it’s the songwriting itself that shines through in cuts like “Our Only Master” and “…And Madness,” both barnburner riffs in classic metal fashion, where the later “Church of the Tooth” draws back the pace to add sway leading into the mid-paced closing duo “The Gate” and “Crawling Chaos.” Not many surprises, but with the ingredients given, knowing what you’re getting isn’t anything to complain about.

Dunsmuir on Thee Facebooks

Dunsmuir webstore

 

Monkey3, Astra Symmetry

monkey3-astra-symmetry

Across a span of 12 tracks and 72 minutes, Swiss heavy progressives Monkey3 unfurl the massive scope of Astra Symmetry, their fifth album and the follow-up to 2013’s The 5th Sun. It is an immediately immersive listening experience and does not become any less so as it plays out, the generally-instrumental four-piece frontloading early songs like “Abyss,” “Moon” and the nodding, synthed-out “The Water Bearer” with vocals and backing that with “Dead Planet’s Eyes” on the second LP for good measure. Delving into Eastern-style melodicism gives Astra Symmetry a contemplative air, but Monkey3’s heavy psychedelia has always provided a free-flowing vibe, and as “Astrea,” “Arch,” “The Guardian” and “Realms of Lights” roll through ambient drones toward the album’s smoothly delivered apex, that remains very much the case. Taken as a whole, Astra Symmetry is a significant journey, but satisfying in that traveling atmosphere and in the hypnosis it elicits along the way.

Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

 

Oak, Oak II

oak-oak-ii

Big progressive step from London four-piece Oak on their second self-released EP, Oak II. They follow last year’s self-titled (review here) with four more tracks that build on the burl established last time out but immediately show more stylistic command, vocalist Andy “Valiant” Wisbey emerging as a significant frontman presence and the band behind him – guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Masson and drummer Clinton Ritchie – finding more breadth, be it in a nod to djent riffing in “Mirage” or more melodic post-Steak desert rock in “Against the Rain.” In addition, “A Bridge too Far” showcases a patience of approach that the first EP simply didn’t have, and that makes its build even more satisfying as it hits its peak and goes quiet into the stonerly swing of “Smoke,” which ends Oak II with due fuzz and some social commentary to go with. Sounds like more than a year’s growth at work, but I’ll take it.

Oak on Thee Facebooks

Oak on Bandcamp

 

Lightsabres, Hibernation

lightsabres-hibernation

One word for Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres? How about “underrated?” Since the 2013 Demons EP (review here), it has been nearly impossible to keep a handle on where John Strömshed (also Tunga Moln) might go on any given song, and his latest offering, the full-length Hibernation (on HeviSike with a tape out on Medusa Crush) works much the same, rolling out a melodic mellowness on the opening title-track before topping off-time chug with garage vocals on the subsequent “Endless Summer.” Elsewhere, “Throw it all Away” marries swallow-you-in-tone riffing with a surprisingly emotionally resonant lead, and “Blood on the Snow” offers a downtrodden vision of grunge-blues like what might’ve happened if Danzig had never gone commercial. It’s all over the place, as was 2014’s Spitting Blood (review here) and 2015’s Beheaded, but tied together through a wintry theme, and anyway, variety is the norm for Lightsabres, whose reach seems only to grow broader with each passing year.

Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks

HeviSike Records website

 

Helen Money, Become Zero

helen-money-become-zero

Knowing the context of Helen Money’s Become Zero having been written by cellist Alison Chesley following losing both her parents, and knowing that songs like the 10-minute “Radiate” and the effects-less “Blood and Bone” (which features pianist Rachel Grimes) deal directly with that loss, only makes it more powerful, but even without that information, the sense of melancholy and loneliness is right there to be heard. Chesley, who released the last Helen Money album, Arriving Angels (review here), in 2013, once again brings in drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis) to contribute, and his work on the title-track and the later churn of “Leviathan” make both standouts, but whether it’s the empty spaces of “Vanished Star” or the ambient wash of “Radiate” – I don’t even know how a cello makes that sound – the emotional force driving the music is ultimately what ties it together as a single work of poignant, deeply resonant beauty.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Helen Money at Thrill Jockey Records

 

Dali’s Llama, Dying in the Sun

dalis-llama-dying-in-the-sun

It has been nearly three years since desert-dwelling rockers Dali’s Llama celebrated their two-decade run with the Twenty Years Underground vinyl (review here) and almost four since their last proper full-length, Autumn Woods (review here), was issued. For them, that’s an exceedingly long time. One can’t help but wonder if the band – now a five-piece, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and recorded as ever by Scott Reeder – went through a period of introspection in that span. After some stylistic experimentation with darker and more doomed influences, the seven tracks of Dying in the Sun would seem to reaffirm who Dali’s Llama are as they approach the quarter-century mark, bringing some of the gloom of Autumn Woods to extended centerpiece “Samurai Eyes” as easily as “Bruja-ha” seems to play off the goth-punk whimsy of 2010’s Howl do You Do? (review here). The fact is Dali’s Llama are all these things, not just one or the other, and so in bringing that together, Dying in the Sun is perhaps the truest to themselves they’ve yet been on record.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama Records website

 

Suns of Thyme, Cascades

suns-of-thyme-cascades

Making their debut on Napalm Records, Berlin five-piece Suns of Thyme exhibit immediate sonic adventurousness on their second album, Cascades, melding krautrock and heavy psych keys and effects with a distinctly human presence in the rhythm section, engaging in songcraft in the new wave-ish “Intuition Unbound” while topping shoegaze wash with organ on “Aphelion.” It’s a vast reach, and with 14 tracks and a 55-minute runtime, Suns of Thyme have plenty of chance to get where they’re going, but the dynamic between the psych-folk of “Val Verde” and the drift of closing duo “Kirwani” and “Kirwani II” and the push of the earlier “Deep Purple Rain” impresses both in theory and practice alike. The task ahead of them would seem to be to meld these influences together further as they move forward, but there’s something satisfying about having no idea what’s coming next after the proggy sway of “Schweben,” and that’s worth appreciating as it is.

Suns of Thyme on Thee Facebooks

Suns of Thyme at Napalm Records

 

Fungal Abyss, Karma Suture

fungal-abyss-karma-suture

Two huge, side-consuming slabs of primordial improvised heavy psychedelia making up a 45-minute LP with a pun title and enough wash throughout that I don’t even feel dirty looking at it? Yeah, there really isn’t a time when I don’t feel ready to sign on for weirdo exploratory stuff like that which Seattle’s Fungal Abyss elicit on Karma Suture. Available as a 12” on Adansonia Records, the album brings together “Perfumed Garden” (22:12) and “Virile Member” (23:22), both sprawling, massive jams that launch almost immediately and are gone for the duration. Way gone. I won’t discount the consumption that takes place on side A, but I think my absolute favorite part of Karma Suture might be the guitar lead on “Virile Member,” which about eight minutes in starts to lose its way and you can actually hear the band come around and pick it back up to an exciting swing. It’s moments like that one that make a group like Fungal Abyss exciting. Not only are they able to right their direction when they need to, but they’re brave enough to put the whole thing on record: as raw and genuine as it gets.

Fungal Abyss on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records website

 

Wicked Gypsy, Wicked Gypsy

wicked-gypsy-wicked-gypsy

It’s an encouraging and unpretentious start that Malaysian four-piece Wicked Gypsy make on their self-titled, self-released three-song EP. In the 22-minute span of “Wicked Gypsy,” “Heavy Eyes” and “Gypsy Woman,” the band – vocalist/guitarist Mahmood Ahmad, bassist Mohd Azam, keyboardist Azyan Idayu and drummer Ahmad Afiq – bring together influences from modern doom and classic heavy rock, Idayu’s keys providing a distinct ‘70s flair to the opener while Azam’s wah bass and of course a liberal dose of rifffing from Ahmad lead a proto-metallic charge in “Heavy Eyes,” topped with gritty vocals reciting lyrics about smoking weed, black magic, the devil, etc. What one really hears in these tracks is Wicked Gypsy’s initial exploration of dark-themed doom rock, and while the going is rough in its sound, that adds to the appeal, and the drum solo/progressive flourish worked into “Gypsy Woman” speaks well of where they’re headed as they walk the Sabbathian path.

Wicked Gypsy on Thee Facebooks

Wicked Gypsy on Soundcloud

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,